THE joint Barooga Poll Merino and Noorla Dohne ram sale consolidated its position on the Williams ram selling calendar, achieving a $2900 top Dohne price, increased averages and a higher clearance rate.
The sale, on September 30 and now its fourth year, drew buyers from a wide region and included new names on the buying register.
While full performance testing is mandatory for Dohnes, buyers also expressed their appreciation for the equally extensive Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs) that accompanied Andrew Higham's Barooga Poll Merinos that led the sale.
Before starting Nutrien auctioneer Michael Altus summed up the Barooga team in a couple of words saying they were an outstanding and even line-up.
By the time the Barooga team was sold, buyers had proven exactly how even they were when prices fluctuated consistently between $1000 and $1400 for the majority of lots.
Barooga's $1800 top was set by the ram in pen three, a son of East Loddon 180038, and was bought by brothers Colin and Michael Gillett, Williams, who were returning for the sixth year to buy their usual line of replacement sires.
With a shopping list for 14 rams they were active throughout the entire sale and, with the exception of one cheap ram at $1200, they bought the rest for between $1300 and $1500.
When the men decided to switch to Barooga they found ASBVs invaluable in their aim to turn off lambs quickly.
They looked for rams with good muscle and growth figures while still showing reasonable wool cut and nourishment.
Their ongoing policy to avoid dry wool types was vindicated this year with 500 millimetres of rain putting their wool to the test with success.
Their top-priced ram had some of the better figures in the catalogue showing +4.71 for weaning weight (PWT), +6.97 yearling weight (YWT), +0.69 eye muscle (EMD), +0.91 fat, +24.46 clean fleece weight (CFW) that combined to give a 156.99 Merino Plus index and a 161.67 Dual Purpose index.
The men will join about 4300 ewes this year including some that will go to White Suffolk sires.
Brothers Shane and James Medlen, Williams, were easily the volume buyers of the day taking home 21 rams to continue a buying tradition that has extended back more than a couple of decades.
During that time one of the biggest changes has been their swing to Polls.
Spokesman James Medlen said in the past they had normally bought a mix of Polls and horns but this year they completed the switch in line with Mr Higham's decision to gradually phase out horn rams.
The sale still carried about 15 rams with horns or large scurrs which generally, were overlooked or sold at a discounted value.
Mr Medlen said despite the bigger number of rams required there was no buying pressure.
"The team was so even it didn't matter if we missed out on a ram - there were plenty to suit us and we were happy with the line we got and we kept within our budget," he said.
Mr Higham said it was his intention to phase out horned sheep completely in response to clients' increased demand for the more easily handled version and was achieving this alongside continual improvement in size, muscling and wool quality.
Last week Barooga's line-up totalled 100 rams with all but three selling under the hammer for a $1140 average, up $165 from the $975 achieved last year.
Among Barooga's most active buyers were Lou Marinoni, Kojonup, who bought eight, for between $1200 and $1400; RA & A Maiolo & Son, Narrogin, returned for nine rams for up to $1600; Steve and Binda Schultz, Williams, bought seven for up to $1100 and repeat buyer LM Ferarri & Co, Corrigin, paid up to $1400 (3) and bought 16 to be another major buyer.
In a side-by-side comparison with the Barooga Poll Merino offering, the 80 Noorla Dohnes was a rollercoaster of prices under strong competition on selected rams.
Despite the different selling pattern, the result was an improvement on 2020 with 70 rams selling for a $1194 average, up $222 on last year.
The offering achieved a $2900 top and two first-time buyers contributed to the improved clearance rate on last year's sale.
The strength at the top end of the sale came mainly from two buyers JC & TB Sullivan, Gibson, and TK Price, Wandering, who had a similar eye and determination to get the top rams.
Repeatedly, they clashed over their choices and eventually it was Tom Price and his grandson Tom Price who paid the top money.
They bought pen 33, a twin-born ram that had a +16.4 CFW putting it in the breed's top five percentile band for that trait.
It also had numbers showing +4.2 WWT, +0.8 EMD, +0.5 fat, +1.3 FD, +-0.7 YCV, combining to give a 147.6 Dohne index.
Mr Price said they were not usually big spenders and it was the first time they had been top price buyers but with a relatively small order for four rams they could budget for higher prices.
They paid $2200, $2000 and $1700 for other rams.
The Price family used figures to help in their selection but their main bidding opposition Josh and Tegan Sullivan were fastidious about the arithmetic.
Mr Sullivan said he had been buying from Noorla for 14 years and had kept records from every sale.
He said figures were not everything if the sheep did not meet their visual criteria for stylish crimping wool and good body.
Mr Sullivan said it was worth the long trip to Williams because the Noorla sheep fitted into their environment well because of their exceptionally nourished wool.
Two traits they particularly wanted were good eye-muscle depth and higher fat measurement to instil good mothering ability into their 2600-ewe flock.
They paid the $2500 second top price twice as well as $2300 and $1500 for their four rams.
A buying order from Russell Lockyer, Treehaven Farm, Bolgart, secured some of the higher price rams for $2400, $2100, $2000 (2) and $1500 as part of a nine-ram draft.
Tim Pyle, now trading with brother David as Millstream Pastoral, Manypeaks, was another volume buyer getting 15 rams and spending up to $2000 but able to bring down his average towards the end of the sale.
Mr Pyle said it had been an exceptionally wet year on the south coast but the Dohnes had proven they could handle the conditions well.
He bought a few more rams this year because they were intending to increase breeding numbers as a result of the confidence they had in the industry.
From the same area M & M Gorman, Wellstead, bought two rams for $1700 and $1300 to be among the higher price payers.
Nutrien Darkan agent Richard Buckland came with a buying order that netted 14 rams for RB Harrington Farms, all bought at $800 to be another volume buyer.
The sale attracted three first time buyers including Kechualling Farming Trust, owned by Michael Taylor and family, Wagin, which bought at $1300 for the best of three.
The extra buying strength lifted the clearance rate giving satisfaction for stud master Jeremey Genders who said the return of clients who hadn't bought for a couple of years had also been a welcome inclusion.
He also could see an increasing depth of quality in the line-up which did not go unnoticed by local sale co-ordinator Ben Kealy from Nutrien Livestock Williams.
Mr Kealy said it was an outstanding sale for both studs that allowed clients to get what they wanted.
"The quality keeps improving every year and the partnership between the two breeds is a concept that has worked well since it started."